“Educating the Native in His Land:” Exploring Nineteenth and Twentieth–Century Imperialism within the Global American Borderlands, 1850s to 1950s

This analysis will explore colonial interactions within two U.S. foreign involvements through the lens of Borderlands History: the Philippines and Hawaii. Using the lens of interaction as a category of analysis, I will talk about how sexual and racial anxieties experienced by populations outside of North America have been in ongoing tension and unremitting negotiation with the American nation. By intentionally placing the Philippines and Hawaii into the realm of borderlands, scholars can further explore the transnational nature of borders, imperialisms, and societies.

The Philippines

As Julian Go contends, U.S. imperialism in the Philippines was singular for many reasons: the 1898 Treaty of Paris ceded the archipelago to the Americans rather than to Filipinos, and the terms of appropriation involved the “legally codified establishment of direct political domination over a foreign territory and peoples.”[1] Island occupation spoke to the larger phenomenon surrounding the emergence of modern empires, such as the U.S., Japan and the U.K., as well as their shared goal in the acquisition of land. Their distant location and increasing western interests made the islands not only “exceptional,” but also illustrative of efforts to colonize societies located far beyond the continent. Continue reading

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Doing Research in Local Archives

photo 2

I recently took a research trip to South Texas to further investigate the turn-of-the-century curandero (faith healer) Don Pedrito Jaramillo, one of the subjects of my dissertation. The main purpose of this trip was to look at the J.T. Canales Estate Papers at the South Texas Archives at Texas A&M-Kingsville. I told myself that if I had time, I would travel to the place Don Pedrito lived from approximately 1881 until his death in 1907: Falfurrias, a town of about five thousand people, forty miles southeast of Kingsville and 120 miles north of the Brownsville-Matamoros. I figured a day would be adequate as I mainly wanted to visit the Don Pedrito Jaramillo Shrine that I had discovered the previous summer on a similar research trip, and experience the place where Don Pedrito spent part of his life healing people. I did not plan to find “factual” historical evidence in Falfurrias useful for my dissertation, yet the day spent in Falfurrias was invaluable to my research in ways I did not foresee. The visit changed the way I think about history and about the stories we tell as historians. Continue reading

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Review: Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space

Rifkin, Mark. Manifesting America: The Imperial Construction of U.S. National Space. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 290 pp. Paperback. $26.96.


Mark Rifkin’s Manifesting America is a pathbreaking and discipline-shattering examination of 1810 to 1850s imperial and subaltern rhetoric between U.S. national authorities and marginalized populations such as Amerindians, early Californios, and ethnic Mexicans. Rifkin extrapolates American legal documents such as the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo to illustrate how the imperial structure of U.S. jurisdiction over the last two centuries created a “simulation of consent” between marginalized peoples and the state (5). He argues that the ways “internalized populations” appropriated and contested North American geographies in a range of “non-fictional writings” demonstrates how U.S. imperial hegemony became embedded in the very language and society of these peoples (6–7).

Manifesting America is divided into four complementary chapters, each examining the manner in which the government articulated sovereignty and authority over contested lands. The first part deconstructs the rhetoric of the 1830 Indian Removal Act and how the U.S. framed “a certain geopolitical grammar” to justify America’s forced migration of Amerindians, especially Cherokees (49, 57). The second chapter examines the rhetoric of popular American figures like Thomas Jefferson and explains how war and expansion exacerbated the legal “inbetweeness” of Anglos and Amerindians (78). The next section investigates Texan property holdings and draws connections between the political identity and economic privilege of ethnic Mexicans, Comanches and Tejanos. The last chapter inspects Californio land claims with the “reservation-paradigm” that allowed the vehicle of violence to legally place indigenous land in the ownership of Anglos and Californios. Each segment of the book provides the reader with several examples of how American imperial rhetoric placated and abused marginalized peoples, and irrevocably appropriated land into national space. Continue reading

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On Comparative Methodology, My Book Manuscript, and Haake’s The State, Removal and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Mexico

This was originally posted at www.bwrensink.org as a part of an ongoing book review series, “From the Bookshelf.”
The content is not explicitly borderlands but seems relevant to the field.

Back when I was working on my dissertation, I was put in contact with a scholar in Australia – Claudia B. Haake – as her recent monograph was relevant to my research in its content and methodology. Her book, The State, Removal and Indigenous Peoples in the United States and Mexico, 1620-2000, is a comparative treatment of the forced removals of Lenapes (Delawares) by the United States, and Yaquis by Mexico.  As 1/2 of my dissertation dealt with Yaquis crossing the U.S.-Mexican border into the United States, the related scholarship on Porfirian forced removal (enslavement, actually) of Yaquis to the Yucatan was an important backdrop for explaining the flight of Yaqui refugees to Arizona and other points north. The content of her book highlighted some very useful sources that I had yet to uncover.
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Book Review: River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands

Valerio-Jiménez, Omar S. River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands. Durham: Duke University Press, 2013. 384 pp. Paperback. $26.95


In River of Hope: Forging Identity and Nation in the Rio Grande Borderlands, Omar S. Valerio-Jiménez offers readers an excellent study of the eastern U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. Valerio-Jiménez chronicles the history of the region beginning with the foundation of the Spanish colony of Nuevo Santander and continuing into the nineteenth century as independence transformed it into the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The work also examines the legal, economic, and social consequences of U.S. westward expansion and the impact of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on everyday lives in the region.
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CFP: Bridging North America: Connections and Divides

The official announcement by the journal organizers as originally posted on H-Borderlands is below. -ed

CFP: Bridging North America: Connections and Divides

University of Turku, Finland

August 28-30, 2014

The John Morton Center for North American Studies, established at the University of Turku in 2014, invites proposals for previously unpublished papers for its inaugural conference, “Bridging North America: Connections and Divides,” to be held on August 28-30, 2014. The conference seeks to bring together junior and senior scholars from inter/disciplinary backgrounds from the social sciences and the humanities to explore various cultural, socioeconomic, geographic, and political connections and divides between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and their global ramifications. The papers may deal with either historical perspectives or contemporary issues, and they may include both empirical and theoretical considerations. We particularly encourage submissions that engage in interdisciplinary and multi-methodological discussions on the study of North America.

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Middle West Review CFP – New digital journal on Midwest history

The official announcement by the journal organizers is below. -ed

The *Middle West Review *is a peer-reviewed digital journal housed at the University of Iowa. Its editorial board and editorial reviewers come from academic and nonacademic institutions throughout the Midwest, Canada, and beyond. We invite submissions across all scholarly disciplines–as well as from outside academia–that explore the meanings of the Midwest in the realms of politics, culture, society, and history. These submissions can
take the form of short essays (350 to 500 words), longer features (at least 1,000 words and up to 5,000 words), think pieces, reflections on current events, book reviews, review essays, traditional research articles, interviews, poetry, prose, photo essays, or multimedia projects, broadly conceived. Through these media–and the discussion they will stimulate–we aim to assist in the revitalization of midwestern history as a field of scholarly inquiry and thereby disrupt normative understandings of this vital and vibrant American region. In order to promote an active discussion and an ongoing conversation about the Midwest in an increasingly fast-paced electronic world, the editors plan to adhere to procedures which assure a rigorous but prompt review process for all submissions.

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Book Review: Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland

Cadava, Geraldo L. Standing on Common Ground: The Making of a Sunbelt Borderland. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. 320 pp. Hardcover. $39.95

Standing on Common Ground, Cover

Geraldo L. Cadava’s Standing on Common Ground: the Making of a Sunbelt Borderland is a richly detailed investigation of postwar Tucson and its social, political, economic, and cultural significance to Arizona and Sonora. The author draws on well-crafted case studies of persons and institutions, posing them as emblematic of the region’s larger history and historical relationships. The book is strongest when describing the sociocultural landscape of its host city. Tucson comes alive on the page, and Cadava does an excellent job interweaving multiple narratives into a cohesive story that contextualizes the region’s colonial past within the construction of twentieth-century racial, political, and cultural structures.

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Book Review: Iron Horse Imperialism: The Southern Pacific of Mexico, 1880-1951

Lewis, Daniel. Iron Horse Imperialism: The Southern Pacific of Mexico, 1880-1951. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007. 192 pp. Paperback. $18.95

Iron Horse Imperialism Book Cover

For Borderlands historians, Iron Horse Imperialism: The Southern Pacific of Mexico, 1880-1951 offers an exemplary study of business, politics, and society. Daniel Lewis uses the history of the SP de México as a vehicle to explore questions of identity and state formation in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Incorporated in New Jersey, for many years, managers touted the company’s U.S. identity, characterizing the enterprise within an imperialist discourse that endeavored to extend “progress” to an “uncivilized” landscape. At the time, the government of Porfirio Díaz welcomed the new line as a means to improve access to Mexico’s difficult-to-reach northwestern lands, reinforcing its control over the region. Harsh terrain and local resistance slowed construction efforts, and over the decades, the company relied on often-contentious relationships with Yaquis, Cristero rebels, and the government to complete the track from the border to Guadalajara. In particular, the Mexican Revolution challenged expansion plans, forcing the company’s powerful U.S. parent to pour millions of dollars into the subsidiary’s operations to repair damage the conflict inflicted.

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Book Review: The Civilizing Machine: A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910

Matthews, Michael. The Civilizing Machine: A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014. 340 pp. Paperback. $40 

Michael Matthews examines the cultural representations of railroads in the Mexican press, articulating their significance to popular society and state formation during the Porfiriato. The Civilizing Machine: A Cultural History of Mexican Railroads, 1876-1910 delves into the writings and imagery of newspapers and magazines loyal and opposed to the regime of Porfirio Díaz. Matthews argues that rival political factions often shared much common ground discursively when characterizing railroads and locomotive travel as harbingers of modernity. Few disagreed that the iron horse embodied notions of “order and progress” poised to deliver Mexico to the club of “modern” nations. Notable differences arose, however, in the ways print outlets portrayed the railroad as an aspect of government policy during this period. For example, Díaz’s supporters used public commemorations when opening new railway stations to stage the national government’s political power and technical prowess. In contrast, opponents cited locomotive accidents and labor abuses committed by foreign-owned railroad companies as manifestations of government ineptitude and preferential treatment given to Americans and Europeans. Although rarely rejecting the technology in toto as bad for the nation, critics instead used the railroad as a foil to appraise the regime without running afoul of state censors.

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